(CNN Spanish) — Qatar 2022 could be the last chance for Lionel Messi, considered by many to be the best soccer player in the world, to achieve ultimate glory: conquering the elusive World Cup that has slipped out of his hands several times.
Messi, who reiterated this Monday that Qatar may be his last FIFA World Cup, will lead a squad with which he hopes to achieve the great goal that is missing from his career, inspired by Maradona in 1986 —who defeated England with majesty — to finally lift the World Cup.
Messi has participated so far in four previous World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. In his participations he has played 19 World Cup matches and has scored six goals, according to the TransferMarkt page.
This has been the participation of the soccer star in other FIFA World Cups.
Germany 2006: a young Messi begins a new era for Argentina
In 2006, the then technical director of Argentina, José Pékerman, opened the door to the first World Cup for Lionel Messi, at the age of 18, who at that time had already made his debut in the Under-20 and in Olympic Argentina, but still did not have a great experience to win the holder of the albiceleste.
Messi, who made his debut in the second group game against Serbia and Montenegro, came on in the 74th minute, replacing Maxi Rodríguez, when the game was 3-0. A new era began there, with other figures on the field such as Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tévez.
At minute 88, in a display of skill and speed, young Messi scored his first World Cup goal with an assist from Carlos Tévez, to seal the team’s 6-0 victory. That would be Messi’s only goal in that World Cup that left Argentina in the quarterfinals, after losing against Germany on penalties.
2010, Messi consolidates, but the goal was elusive
For his second World Cup, 22-year-old Lionel Messi was already shining with Barcelona in world football. By that time he had won a Champions League, had a Ballon d’Or and had been a top scorer in the Spanish League. But in South Africa 2010 the goal eluded him and he left without scoring a single goal.
Argentina saw in that World Cup the union of two greats on and off the field: Diego Maradona, the eternal Argentine legend, who represented for many the glorious past of the team that gave Argentina its second Cup in 1986, and Messi, who By that time, he already represented the future of a new generation that gave the team hope.
Messi, invested with the 10 that has been from Maradona, Ortega and Riquelme, led Argentina against Greece at his short 22 years above others much more veteran and experienced.
In the first game of that World Cup against Nigeria, Argentina won 1-0 with an early goal from Gabriel Heinze, with an assist from Juan Sebastián Verón. But bad luck, the sticks or the Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama did not let Messi celebrate the goals.
The second match, this time against South Korea, Messi scored the first goal with a left-footed cross that hit South Korean player Ji-sung Park in the leg and went into his own goal. The game progressed with three goals from Gonzalo Higuaín, one of them with Messi running the ball halfway through the field and finishing off in the area twice, to later see Pipa’s score. The goal never came to Messi in this game.
A discount for Chung-yong Lee’s South Korea for a 4-1 finish.
In the third game, against Greece, Messi made his debut as Argentina’s youngest captain in the soccer World Cups, with Maradona encouraging him from off the pitch, reiterating his confidence: “Come on, captain,” he yelled at him from off the pitch. Messi opened several goal opportunities, such as the clearest one in minute 85, which hit the post, and one more shot, in minute 89, after a recovery of 10, a left-footed shot, but in the end the one who scores is Martín Palermo, which closes the match 2-0.
Finally, the match against Mexico arrives. In the round of 16 in South Africa 2010, Messi once again shined with assists and shots against the goal, like the one in the 11th minute in which Messi crosses from right to left in the six-yard box, but the goalkeeper frustrates the goal call .
The first goal, with the assistance of Messi, was scored by Carlos Tévez at minute 25; the second goal was scored by Gonzalo Higuaín and the third saw a great goal from Tévez, his second goal of the tournament. Mexico’s discount came on behalf of “Chicharito” Hernández and the game was 3-1, with Argentina going to the quarterfinals.
Messi’s World Cup dream was suppressed by Germany, which stopped the Argentines in the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win.
Brazil 2014: Messi is a figure, Argentina is a finalist and the legend is strengthened
This was the World Cup in which the title slipped out of Messi’s hands. At that time, already with extensive experience and a legend already strengthened by world football, Messi scored four goals in the entire tournament, reached a final with his team since 1990, but in the end, perhaps due to a football injustice, chance or superiority of its rival, Argentina was in second place against Germany.
After a Bosnian own goal in the 3rd minute, the Argentine number 10 made a strong start in the group stage against Bosnia, scoring his first goal of the championship in the 65th minute, after a pass near Higuain’s six-yard box. Argentina won 2-1, with a discount from Vedad Ibisevic five minutes from the end of the game.
Messi’s second goal in that World Cup came against Iran at the Belo Horizonte stadium. When the hopes of the Argentine national team were over and multiple shots on target did not go in, Messi arrived with a cross shot from outside to end the duel.
And finally, the captain had his revenge against Nigeria and even more so against goalkeeper Enyeama, who in 2010 did not let him score, and he scored two goals in the 3-2 victory to easily advance to the round of 16. Messi was seen joking on the pitch with Enyeama, who responded to the Argentine’s jokes.
Argentina was advancing and now at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo the albiceleste faced the Swiss ‘guard’ in the round of 16, a match that felt like a final due to the tension, the arrivals, the shots on goal and the bets on the two teams.
The only goal of the game, enough to claim victory, came at minute 118, in extended time when Di María, as Messi’s strategic partner, took the team to the quarterfinals with a great goal that destroyed the Swiss defense and caused two Rosario to put sing victory to an entire country.
The Argentine victories did not stop and their next rival, Belgium, lost with the minimum difference with a goal that started at Messi’s feet, passed Di María and finally ended in celebration with a shot by Gonzalo Higuaín. Messi, the showman, did not disappoint and with several free-kick collections, dribblings and runs into the area he made those attending the Estádio Nacional de Brasília Mané Garrincha celebrate.
After that match, Argentina qualified for the quarterfinals in a match against the Netherlands full of stars on the field —Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben; Mascherano, Higuaín and Messi— which came to penalty kicks. Messi scored the first of the goals, giving his team confidence to advance to the grand final against Argentina.
A loose Messi and the Argentine fans who own the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro celebrated in advance the arrival in the final, an event that had eluded them since 1990, when glory also got out of hand against Germany.
Messi, Zavaleta, Higuaín arrived, but the goal eluded them by centimeters. A goal by Higuaín, annulled for being offside, was an anticipated and equivocal celebration for the Argentines. Messi throughout the game exceeded the mark, dribbled, suffered and chased the ball, achieving eight or ten goal arrivals. But the annotation did not occur.
In the end, Germany, who had lost control of the game for a moment, reached the second half of extra time and a knock out he won the match, leaving Argentina with a distant victory and a disappointed Messi with his eyes on the cup, unable to lift it, as if “happily ever after” did not exist.
Messi was the Ballon d’Or of the 2014 World Cup, but that recognition, without getting the maximum title, was not a reason for celebration for the Flea.
2018, the end of an era
Russia 2018 was a new opportunity for Lionel Messi to go to the World Cup and this was the last time that the star team of Di María, Mascherano, Agüero, Higuaín and Messi together would appear on the field.
But this time, a more mature and experienced Messi did not shine as much as in Brazil 2014, and the cup was far away, with Argentina reaching the round of 16, with a not so memorable presentation.
Again, despite his tireless quest for victory, Argentina’s first game in this World Cup ended with a 1-1 loss against Iceland, in which Messi missed a penalty, which filled him with anger and frustration on the pitch.
The soccer star’s sixth World Cup goal would come this time against Nigeria, an old acquaintance of Messi, whom Argentina had already beaten in 2010 and 2014.
Despite a defeat by a landslide against Croatia (3-0), Argentina reached the quarterfinals and faced, with a feast of goals, France, with a 4-3 result that stopped the World Cup dream of Argentina and Messi.
That match was “the debut of a brilliant class of young Frenchmen at the last dance of a golden generation for Argentina,” says FIFA. And although a left footed shot from Messi was born the first goal of the game, the young Kylian Mbappé would bury the illusion of Argentina in Russia 2018.
Argentina said goodbye to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a 3-4 defeat, while France, their executioner, was crowned champion against Croatia at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.